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FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (director/writer: Peter Berg; screenwriters: David Aaron Cohen/based on the book by H.G. Bissinger; cinematographer: Tobias Schliessler; editors: David Rosenbloom/Colby Parker Jr.; music: Explosions in the Sky/David Torn; cast: Lucas Black (Mike Winchell), Derek Luke (Boobie Miles), Billy Bob Thornton (Coach Gary Gaines), Jay Hernandez (Brian Chavez), Garrett Hedlund (Don Billingsley), Tim McGraw (Charles Billingsley), Connie Britton (Sharon Gaines), Lee Thompson Young (Chris Comer), Grover Coulson (R.V. Miles), Connie Cooper (Mrs. Winchell), Kasey Stevens (Flippy), Lee Jackson (Ivory Christian); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Brian Grazer; Universal Pictures; 2004)
It succeeds best as a sadly iconic portrayal of America’s love affair with Texas high school football.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Actor turned director Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor”/”Battleship”/”The Rundown”) intelligently directs this ambitious high school football movie. Co-writers Berg and David Aaron Cohen base it on the best-selling, Pulitzer-Prize-winning non-fiction book – 1990’s Friday Night Lights : A Town, A Team and A Dream book by H.G. Bissinger. It’s based on a true story. The story takes place in 1988, in the West Texas small-town of Odessa. It’s a racially mixed and economically strapped town, where high school football is the main focus. The Permian H.S. Panthers football team is led by Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), who is under great pressure to win the state title. The town has thrown its full support behind the team, even giving them money.The games are played to big crowds on Friday nights from September to December. Thornton delivers a brilliant nuanced performance, as he gets under his character’s skin to reveal the highs and the lows he is faced with. The obsessed football town has lost sense of the human cost of playing a game so intensely. It succeeds best as a sadly iconic portrayal of America’s love affair with Texas high school football.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”